Advanced

Trade and World Power: A model for a Time-Space Appropriation Assessment of an 18 th Century Swedish-Chinese-Spanish(-American) Trade Exchange

Warlenius, Rikard LU (2013) Swedish Economic History Meeting, 2013
Abstract
Trade and World Power: A Time-Space Appropriation Assessment of an 18th Century Swedish-Chinese-Spanish(-American) Trade Exchange



Was China rather than Europe the center of the early modern world system, as claimed by so-called new world historians such as Kenneth Pomeranz and Andre Gunder Frank? Can structural position within the hierarchy of the world system be revealed through assessment of ecologically unequal exchange, as asserted by political ecologists? Is such unequal exchange characterized by appropriation of time and space, as suggested by human ecologist Alf Hornborg? If these questions are answered positively, the trade of the Swedish East India Company (SOIC) in the eighteenth century ought to have involved... (More)
Trade and World Power: A Time-Space Appropriation Assessment of an 18th Century Swedish-Chinese-Spanish(-American) Trade Exchange



Was China rather than Europe the center of the early modern world system, as claimed by so-called new world historians such as Kenneth Pomeranz and Andre Gunder Frank? Can structural position within the hierarchy of the world system be revealed through assessment of ecologically unequal exchange, as asserted by political ecologists? Is such unequal exchange characterized by appropriation of time and space, as suggested by human ecologist Alf Hornborg? If these questions are answered positively, the trade of the Swedish East India Company (SOIC) in the eighteenth century ought to have involved a net transfer of annual hectare yields and days of human labor per price unit from Sweden to China. In a first study (Iron for Tea. The Trade of the Swedish East India Company as a Cross-Continental Case Study of Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the Eighteenth Century, 2010), these theoretical approaches were combined to build a model for analyzing and quantifying the exchange of Swedish bar iron and Chinese Bohea tea 1731–1800. The result implied a massive net transfer of embodied land and a moderate net transfer of embodied labor from Sweden to China, which arguably strengthens the assumption of Chinese centrality in the early modern world system.

This model, however, bypassed the complicating factor that the exchange of iron and tea was mediated by Spanish coins of silver mainly extracted from the colonial mines of Potosí in Peru (now Bolivia) and Zacatecas in Mexico. As commonly described in the literature, the silver SOIC purchased in Cadiz, Spain after selling the bar iron, appeared as pure money – a residual store of the value of the iron used to buy tea, silk, porcellain and other Chinese commodites after arrival in Guangzhou, China. But according to Kenneth Pomeranz (The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, 2000: 160) silver should be regarded as a commodity rather than as money. Silver was one of very few manufactured goods in which the West had an advantage over its Eastern competitors, and a commodity that was in high demand by the growing Chinese economy. SOIC's business was thus not only imports of Chinese luxury goods to Europe, but also to take part in the perhaps most defining trade route of the early modern era, of silver from the world's richest sources to its main sink.

This paper discusses whether it is theoretically desirable and empirically possible to include also the time and space embodied in silver in the above mentioned theoretical model in order to get a more profound understanding of the early modern Sino-European trade. A revised model and some preliminary data are presented and the implications of the (still preliminary) result is discussed. What might it be able to say about the structural power distribution of the early-modern world system? (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
submitted
subject
keywords
ecologically unequal exchange, global history, economic history, China, silver
pages
15 pages
conference name
Swedish Economic History Meeting, 2013
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
d4b124fc-27d6-4b1e-adf5-32d9656990d9 (old id 4058457)
date added to LUP
2013-09-27 14:52:37
date last changed
2016-07-15 08:12:51
@misc{d4b124fc-27d6-4b1e-adf5-32d9656990d9,
  abstract     = {Trade and World Power: A Time-Space Appropriation Assessment of an 18th Century Swedish-Chinese-Spanish(-American) Trade Exchange<br/><br>
<br/><br>
Was China rather than Europe the center of the early modern world system, as claimed by so-called new world historians such as Kenneth Pomeranz and Andre Gunder Frank? Can structural position within the hierarchy of the world system be revealed through assessment of ecologically unequal exchange, as asserted by political ecologists? Is such unequal exchange characterized by appropriation of time and space, as suggested by human ecologist Alf Hornborg? If these questions are answered positively, the trade of the Swedish East India Company (SOIC) in the eighteenth century ought to have involved a net transfer of annual hectare yields and days of human labor per price unit from Sweden to China. In a first study (Iron for Tea. The Trade of the Swedish East India Company as a Cross-Continental Case Study of Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the Eighteenth Century, 2010), these theoretical approaches were combined to build a model for analyzing and quantifying the exchange of Swedish bar iron and Chinese Bohea tea 1731–1800. The result implied a massive net transfer of embodied land and a moderate net transfer of embodied labor from Sweden to China, which arguably strengthens the assumption of Chinese centrality in the early modern world system. <br/><br>
This model, however, bypassed the complicating factor that the exchange of iron and tea was mediated by Spanish coins of silver mainly extracted from the colonial mines of Potosí in Peru (now Bolivia) and Zacatecas in Mexico. As commonly described in the literature, the silver SOIC purchased in Cadiz, Spain after selling the bar iron, appeared as pure money – a residual store of the value of the iron used to buy tea, silk, porcellain and other Chinese commodites after arrival in Guangzhou, China. But according to Kenneth Pomeranz (The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy, 2000: 160) silver should be regarded as a commodity rather than as money. Silver was one of very few manufactured goods in which the West had an advantage over its Eastern competitors, and a commodity that was in high demand by the growing Chinese economy. SOIC's business was thus not only imports of Chinese luxury goods to Europe, but also to take part in the perhaps most defining trade route of the early modern era, of silver from the world's richest sources to its main sink.<br/><br>
This paper discusses whether it is theoretically desirable and empirically possible to include also the time and space embodied in silver in the above mentioned theoretical model in order to get a more profound understanding of the early modern Sino-European trade. A revised model and some preliminary data are presented and the implications of the (still preliminary) result is discussed. What might it be able to say about the structural power distribution of the early-modern world system?},
  author       = {Warlenius, Rikard},
  keyword      = {ecologically unequal exchange,global history,economic history,China,silver},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {15},
  title        = {Trade and World Power: A model for a Time-Space Appropriation Assessment of an 18 th Century Swedish-Chinese-Spanish(-American) Trade Exchange},
  year         = {2013},
}